Wednesday, September 17, 2014

North Texas bermudagrass roundtable a success

During the month of July, a considerable amount of my time and focus was spent planning, preparing and conducting the Bermudagrass Roundtable Forum held in Arlington, Texas, July 23. It all began in June, when I met with a concerned Fort Worth superintendent who asked me to assist him in putting together a roundtable forum focused on the severe impact that the extreme winter of 2013-2014 has had on bermudagrass greens across the southern half of the United States.

All types of bermudagrass greens have experienced damage, ranging from slow spring recovery to severe winterkill. This has occurred as far as South Texas and all parts north that are growing bermudagrass. Many theories have been discussed regarding the causes of damage, as well as the preventative measures that could have been implemented to lessen the effects of the severe weather conditions.

The Fort Worth superintendent, Duane Janssen, CGCS, believed it was very important to bring together a group of superintendents in the Dallas/Fort Worth area to share ideas, knowledge and experience. At our initial meeting, Duane and I created a four-step plan to accomplish this goal:

Organization meeting
Duane and I assembled an engaged group of five superintendents, two vendor representatives and myself who met at Ridglea Country Club in Fort Worth. At the meeting, the group shared experiences regarding the issue and discussed the possible benefits of the roundtable forum. The group felt strongly that the roundtable format would be enthusiastically supported by superintendents in the DFW area. The group also determined that the best starting point for the discussion would be an electronic survey sent to all superintendents with bermudagrass greens. The results of this survey would provide discussion topics for the roundtable. The group provided feedback regarding the issues and survey questions they believed would be most informative. July 23 was set for the Bermudagrass Roundtable Forum, to be held at Rolling Hills Country Club in Arlington.

Survey creation
Working with one of the vendor representatives, we constructed the survey based on the meeting outcomes. The survey included approximately 42 sections/questions that covered all aspects of the management of bermudagrass greens in the DFW area, along with questions about facilities' experiences. The survey provided ample opportunity for superintendents to provide data and express opinions about the techniques that were successful or unsuccessful during the winter and spring. The survey was posted to Survey Monkey, and an email encouraging participation was sent to all North Texas GCSA members.

Survey results and presentation
On July 22, I met with Duane Janssen and Mike Epps to review the survey results and create a plan to present the data at the forum. Twenty-seven courses participated in the survey, which was completely anonymous. It quickly became apparent that the information provided great insight into the diversity of the management practices that exist among the survey participants. Rather than attempt to digest and quantify the information in a scientific manner, the group felt the data should be presented in whole and each topic discussed individually.

Roundtable forum
Turnout for the forum exceeded our group’s expectations, with 20 superintendents in attendance. I was asked to moderate the session, and we had no shortage of discussion during the three-hour meeting.

The discussion was broken in to the following sections:
  • Survey Participants and Course Information
  • 2013 Management and Conditions - Growing Season
  • 2013-2014 Winter - Management and Conditions
  • 2014 Spring - Damage and Recovery
  • Looking Back and Moving Forward 2014-2015

This event was considered a huge success by all who participated. The information provided from the survey was very helpful, but the most valuable aspect was the discussion and sharing of ideas and experiences. I am confident that my involvement demonstrated the value of the field staff program in a unique and new way. Several members mentioned that they would like to see future events address this issue, as well as others that affect members.

View the survey results and presentation used at the Bermudagrass Roundtable Forum »

I would encourage chapters to consider these types of meetings to promote information sharing among members. Contact your field representative for more information and ideas on how you can hold a successful event.